One hypothesis for the etiology of cell damage arising from iron overload is that its excess selectively affects mitochondria. Here we tested the effects of acute iron overload on liver mitochondria isolated from rats subjected to a single dose of i.p. 500 mg/kg iron-dextran. The treatment increased the levels of iron in mitochondria (from 21 ± 4 to 130 ± 7 nmol/mg protein) and caused both lipid peroxidation and glutathione oxidation. The mitochondria of iron-treated rats showed lower respiratory control ratio in association with higher resting respiration. The mitochondrial uncoupling elicited by iron-treatment did not affect the phosphorylation efficiency or the ATP levels, suggesting that uncoupling is a mitochondrial protective mechanism against acute iron overload. Therefore, the reactive oxygen species (ROS)/H+ leak couple, functioning as a mitochondrial redox homeostatic mechanism could play a protective role in the acutely iron-loaded mitochondria.